Nicky Dethridge and her family first visited Puglia during the Italian summer of 2016, and they’ve been lucky enough to return every year since. The woman behind www.ifindyougo.com and @ifindyougo, Nicky shares with us the reasons she loves this part of Southern Italy which borders the Adriatic Sea to the east, the Ionian Sea to the southeast, and the Strait of Otranto and Gulf of Taranto to the south…
Puglia is definitely one of my favourite places in the world, however I find that many people I talk to have never heard of it. For those of you unsure as to where it is, it’s in Italy and located in the south of the country. Italy is often described as being shaped like a boot; Puglia is the ‘heel’ of that boot.
This region of Italy has completely captured my heart. The warmth and the charm of the people, the delicious, simple food, the stunning beaches, the history, the relaxed lifestyle, the rustic, ancient towns to explore and the extraordinary light of a summer’s evening sunset here have me well and truly hooked!
It’s crucial that you have a car to explore Puglia as there is so much to see and do and this is the easiest way to get around. Some of the roads here are in less than optimal condition, so be prepared for some bumps along the way! This area was also traditionally very poor, so the infrastructure is not always the best.
During the summer it can get VERY hot so everyone goes to the beach. The best time to go exploring is during the early evening when the towns come alive – people are out enjoying ‘aperitivo’ (something to drink and nibble on), a passeggiata (walk) around the streets and then a late dinner when the sun goes down.
Here are my Top Five Tips for where to go in Puglia:
- Explore the caves at Santa Maria di Leuca: Located at the southernmost tip of Puglia, this area is breathtakingly beautiful. We took a boat with friends and spent the day sailing, swimming and exploring the caves and grottoes carved into the rocky cliffs. The Adriatic and the Ionian seas collide here, so the coastline is rugged, and the sea is the most amazing shade of azure blue.
- Visit the Valle d’Itria: This area includes some of the most picturesque, beautiful towns in Puglia and it’s most famous for its Trulli houses (small, stone-built, conical-shaped houses), Masserias (farmhouses) and its fields of olive groves. You must visit the following towns while you are here: Ostuni (known as ‘the white city’), Locorotondo, Martina Franca, Cisternino and Alberobello. On the coast a short distance away is the beautiful, small town of Polignano a mare, built into the cliffs overlooking the sea.
- Wander the streets of Lecce and Otranto: If you’ve already heard of Lecce, you will know that it’s referred to as ‘the Florence of the south’ as it is home to an amazing collection of beautiful, Baroque churches and buildings. You must visit the main square of Piazza Sant’ Oronzo to see the ancient Roman amphitheatre and triumphal arch. This city really comes alive at night and has a wonderful array of bars and restaurants to choose from. Otranto is Italy’s most eastern town and is located south of Lecce on the Adriatic sea. Take an early evening stroll along the old city walls overlooking the sea, and make sure you visit the Norman Cathedral with its 12th Century mosaic.
- See Gallipoli: This historical town overlooks the Ionian sea on the western side of Puglia and sits on a tiny island that’s connected to the mainland by a 17th Century bridge. There are some lovely restaurants overlooking the sea – the perfect spot to watch the magnificent sunsets.
- Spend the day at a Beach club: Puglia has roughly 800 kilometres of coastline, and during summer the Italians LOVE to go to the beach! There’s a great deal of variety, from white, sandy beaches to rocky caves, grottoes and steep cliffs. Italians know how to do beach clubs well, and the food on offer for lunch is delicious! Make sure you try one of their special iced coffees made with almond milk – very refreshing on a hot day! A couple of my favourite beach clubs are La Castellana, north of Otranto, and the beach clubs, Punta Prosciutto, a little north of Gallipoli.